Adapted from The Italian Country Table: Home Cooking from Italy's Farmhouse Kitchens by Lynne Rossetto Kasper
This pasta was inspired by the black olives that farm wives marinate then sell at the morning market in the Sicilian port town of Siracusa. They toss olives with fresh basil, shreds of orange zest, oregano, garlic, and hot pepper. One farm woman told me she did the same thing with pasta, adding fresh tomato, too. I tried the idea and found it was a spicy, fragrant pasta quite different from anything I'd tasted. She said you could add a little fresh sheep cheese or mozzarella to tame down the strong flavors - she was right.
Cooks shopping in the Siracusa market were buying bunches of tiny-leafed basil that we know as spicy globe basil. These bushy little plants have an appealingly citrus-pepper scent. Find them in nurseries and farmers' markets in summer. If not to be had, use regular fresh sweet basil.
1. Coat the oil the bottom of a 12-inch saute pan with a sheer film of oil. Saute garlic over low heat until soft but not more than pale blonde. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve.
2. Turn heat to medium high. Saute onion to pale gold, seasoning with salt and pepper. Stir in half the orange zest then cook another 30 seconds to a minute. Blend in oregano and chile, cooking 10 seconds. At this point, you could set aside the saute, covered, up to 3 hours.
3. Cook the pasta in fiercely boiling water, stirring often, until tender yet firm to the bite. Remove 1 cup of pasta water and set aside; drain pasta in a colander. Just before serving the pasta, stir the pasta water into the saute pan with the remaining zest and reserved garlic, cooking 30 seconds. Add fresh-cooked and drained pasta, the basil, and olives, tossing to coat. Blend in tomatoes, taste for seasoning, and turn into a warm bowl. Sprinkle with cheese if desired. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Wine: A white Planeta La Segreta.
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